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New Caledonia to shorten curfew, reopen international airport

Robert Besser
21 Jun 2024

PARIS, France: The French Pacific territory of New Caledonia is set to reopen its international airport and shorten its curfew as deadly unrest continues to subside.

The territory, which has been the site of significant violence involving pro-independence Indigenous Kanaks seeking to break from France, is seeing signs of stabilization.

La Tontouta airport, which connects New Caledonia's capital, Noumea, to major hubs such as Sydney, Tokyo, and Singapore, resumed commercial flights on June 17, according to a statement released by the territory's high commissioner.

Additionally, the high commissioner said that the overnight curfew will now start at 8 p.m. instead of 6 p.m., reflecting the improvement in the security situation and aiming to facilitate a gradual return to normalcy.

The violence that erupted on May 13 over contentious voting reforms resulted in nine fatalities, including two gendarmes, and extensive damage to shops, businesses, and residences. The airport's closure had left many tourists stranded, who were later evacuated via military flights.

In response to the violence, French President Emmanuel Macron suspended the controversial voting reforms, which would have changed voting rights in New Caledonia, amid a frenzied campaign for snap parliamentary elections in France. On May 15, France declared a state of emergency on the archipelago and sent additional police forces to control the situation marked by armed clashes, looting, and arson.

The unrest saw both pro-independence Indigenous Kanaks and those loyal to France erecting barricades. Pro-independence protesters created blockades with charred vehicles and other debris, turning parts of Noumea into no-go zones. The easing of the curfew and the airport's reopening indicate a tentative step towards restoring order in New Caledonia.

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